High Stakes Train, Part Two

As they settled into the chairs, a prick stung Jackson’s thigh. He bounced up.
“Ow!” Garvey examined his hindquarters.
“Poison?” Jackson plucked needles from the seats. “What’s your game?”
“There’s always a game.” Dale slapped a card deck onto the table. “This one’s for your life. Without the antidote, you die in two hours. Enough time for unhitching my cargo and a poker game for survival.”
Miss Parker shook her head. “I don’t play vile games.”
“Learn quick.” Dale smirked. “Or do you wanna die tied to this chair in your underpants?”
Cheeks flushing, she flared her nostrils. “Fine.”
“Untie her, Smokey.” He ripped the dress over his head with a swift motion, as if he’d worn them all his life.
“Name’s Garvey.”
Burns pistol-slammed Garvey to the floor. “One hour, fifty-five minutes.”
Clutching Burns’s pant leg, he pulled himself up and hustled to untie Miss Parker.
“Dangerous to carry poison without extra antidote. Even for a gambler,” she said.
“Got my own stash.” Burns smacked a leather pouch on his belt. “But I’m only leavin’ one for you.” He plucked out a vial.
“Please, Mr. Burns.” Miss Parker laid a hand on his hip.
He sneered. “No favors for old maids.”
“May I have my dress?” Her lip quivered.
“Leave her the dress.” Jackson blinked at swirling floorboards. He grabbed the chair.
“Fadin’ early? Better unhitch the car, then.” Burns pocketed the antidote and waved the men outside where he leapt to the cargo car. He shouted demands until squeals culminated in a clunk. As the cars separated, he lobbed the tube across.
Jackson swayed on the platform. Gripping his Stetson’s brim, he focused on the blurry vial. Plunk. Into his hat.
“Some catch.” Garvey helped him inside.
Jackson collapsed onto a chair. “Apologies, Garvey. Should’ve trusted you.”
“Reckon I’m still a thief.” Garvey pulled out a second vial. “You and the lady oughta live.”
Miss Parker strode to Jackson. “I won’t lose a fine marshal. Nor this thoughtful young man.”
“But—” Jackson’s protest drowned as she poured antidote down his gullet.
Garvey said, “But—”
“I wasn’t always a school marm.” Withdrawing a third vial from her corset, she winked. “If you tell anyone, I’ll have to kill you.”

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